Two of the four familiar faces on WPXI's late news are about to disappear.
Darieth Chisolm, who has worked at the station since March 1993 and has been co-anchoring the 11 p.m. news, is resigning to devote more time to her 4-year-old son, her husband and a flourishing home-based business. Her last day will be July 14. The station is looking for a replacement inside and outside Channel 11.
Also leaving, after nearly 16 years and a half-dozen news directors, is broadcast meteorologist Dennis Bowman. The station chose not to renew his contract, which expires Oct. 25. He's not sure when his last day will be or where he will land next, although he has come to consider Pittsburgh home.
"This is where Debbie and I raised our kids," said empty-nester Bowman, who is the father of daughters ages 25 and 22. Although the elder daughter is a flight attendant based in New York, the younger will start a master's program this fall at the University of Pittsburgh.
"I will consider opportunities inside and outside of Pittsburgh, for sure. But you have to go where the job is. It might be it will take us elsewhere," perhaps closer to his parents, both in their 80s and living in Kansas City.
While Bowman said "this has been in the works for a while," he thought the station would rethink a change after a terrific May ratings book in which WPXI tied for first place at 11 p.m. and was first at 5 p.m. It also did well in the demographics, the breakdowns along gender and age lines that are so crucial to advertisers.
"But, in the end, it was not to be. These things are based on research and just general feelings about what can make the station better," he said. Bowman likened it to the Yankees winning the World Series in four games and nevertheless deciding to release one of their best players.
His departure was announced by news director Jennifer Rigby. In a statement she said, "We appreciate Dennis' work at Channel 11 and wish him well in his future endeavors." Rigby and general manager John Howell were out of the office yesterday and unavailable for comment.
"It's a business move," conceded Bowman, who reported around the clock during the blizzard of 1993. "I'm puzzled by it, I'm saddened by it, but I can rise above it and move on with my life. I understand you can only take these things personally to a certain level."
Bowman, who delivers the weather on the 5, 6, 10 and 11 p.m. news on WPXI or PCNC, doesn't know when he will deliver his final forecast. "They said I can come in and work until the end of the contract or, if I find something new, I can leave early."
However, WPXI has hired a new chief meteorologist, Steve Teeling, from the CBS affiliate in Phoenix. He will start work July 19. Before his Phoenix stint, he was chief meteorologist at WBFF in Baltimore.
Teeling, a New England native who is married and the father of two young boys, holds a bachelor's in earth science and meteorology from Southern Connecticut State University and has the American Meteorologist Society Seal of Approval.
Bowman says he is leaving with a sense of gratitude. "I got to have 16 years in a building that has a cast of characters you just wouldn't believe. The people there are just wonderful to work with. Some of the best friends I've ever had in my life are at that place. ... I just want to thank all the people of Pittsburgh who made it such a special place to walk down the street."
The departure of Bowman will mean the breakup of one of the longest-running news teams in the country.
"I'm at a loss to explain why they would want to break that up," anchor Peggy Finnegan said yesterday. "I don't understand the decision. Of course, I respect my managers and I'm sure they have their reasons, but I'm really going to miss him."
Finnegan, who has worked with Bowman since December 1989, considers him a wonderful friend and co-worker. "He's one of the hardest-working guys I know. Very knowledgeable. Loyal. He's dependable in the crisis situations we have around here."
While Bowman is departing reluctantly, anchor-reporter Chisolm is leaving for a very important reason: Her 4-year-old son, nicknamed Tre. He has been splitting his time with his mother, father, day-care providers, friends and relatives.
Chisolm, who is married to Dr. Arnold Tarpley, said, "We're all excited about having more time together. You never realize how important that is until you lift your head and he's 4 years old."
A Detroit native who came here from Dayton, Ohio, Chisolm said she realized, "It's time to be a mommy. ... I needed a son. I needed a husband. All of those things. The other thing, though, is I've had the great fortune to have a successful business to allow me the financial wherewithal to make this step."
She expects to devote 20 hours a week to the business, called The Unfranchise, which specializes in group purchasing and customizing of goods ranging from cosmetics to pet products.
The anchor knows she's leaving at a time when the station is doing well. "We did great in May. I wouldn't leave under any other condition, except on top." Channel 11 has kept the door open to Chisolm, and she to it. "If there's a telethon and there's something they need me to do -- raising money, helping out," she would be happy to pitch in. She also plans to continue her volunteering.
Talking about the 11 p.m. anchor chair, a coveted spot but one that doesn't lend itself easily to family life, she said, "It's a great slot to have. It's been great for these last three years, almost three years. But I'm confident and passionate about where I'm headed. I take with me everything I've ever learned or was given at the station. I'm a big Channel 11 fan."